Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Watkinson Clay Pipe Factory in Market Rasen

George Spencer Watkinson was the builder of the Market Rasen Clay pipe factory, which he built in 1843.  The factory made clay smoking pipes in a variety of designs and was very successful from the 1840s to 1893, when the introduction of wooden pipes began to make clay pipes obsolete. 

What makes the Watkinson factory unique is that George Spencer Watkinson's son of the same name, made a journal of his memories of the factory, including a number of naive sketches of the processes in the making of clay pipes.  In general, there is very little known or written about the operation of clay pipe factories, and so to have the record made by George Spencer Watkinson junior is very special.  The illustrations from his journal are not of good quality, but they offer more information for the Market Rasen factory than can be found anywhere else.  A short biography of George Spencer Watkinson junior and some copies of his illustrations are included in the booklet Market Rasen in the eighteen fifties.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, clay pipes were provided by pubs to their clientele.  The customers would break off the end of the pipe, and then fill it with tobacco and smoke it, returning it to the pipe stand for the next person to use.  Thus it is that clay pipes are usually discovered with short or none existent stems, even when the bowls survive.  They were disposable.

Each clay pipe factory would produce their own designs, sometimes with the name of the manufacturer or the place where they were made, inscribed on the pipes.  Some of the pipes made at Market Rasen are plain, but many of them have "Watkinson - Rasen" or "Market Raisin" or "Market Rasen"  on them.

Some of the decorated designs show a trophy, maybe a racing trophy?  Others show acorns and oak leaves, or geometric designs.  Some of the rarest are anti-slavery pipes, showing a slave in chains on one side, and Liberty, a standing female in Greek dress, on the reverse.

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